Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Creating a uniform

[Note to my male readers: this post will probably not interest you much. Feel free to skip it.] :)

Here's an interesting idea: a woman decided to see if she could wear the same black dress for an entire year:

(CNN) -- One outfit at a time, Sheena Matheiken was determined to make a change

She sported a simple, tunic-style dress for not one, two or three days. She did it for 365 days in a row.

The New York resident gave herself the fashion challenge of reinventing the same black dress. She did it by adding colorful tights, funky shoes and patterned tops, all donations from eco-friendly designers, thrift shops and mail-in leftovers from strangers.

Her outfits varied. Some were random, others organized; some bright, others muted; some classic, others modern. For example, she dressed as an intergalactic goth mermaid one day. The next, she became a modern hippie adorned with a floral bandana and cutout tights.

Matheiken completed her yearlong Uniform Project this month; the effort started a year ago to raise money for the The Akanksha Foundation. The foundation is a nonprofit helping children in India's slums attend schools. She raised enough money to send 233 children to school for a year.

Matheiken also wanted to bring awareness to sustainable fashion. That's not a bad lesson for those of us feeling the recession's pinch.

Now, Ms. Matheiken is a very small, "gamin" sort of woman, and even so I think the actual dress ought to have been at least knee-length. But it's the idea of this, more than the execution, that intrigues me, especially the concept of "sustainable fashion."

You might say that those of us living on one income have been practicing "sustainable fashion" for a long time--except we called the idea "hand-me-downs." Or "thrift-shop couture." Or "raiding the clearance rack off-season." Or...but you get the idea.

Still, without even realizing it a lot of us (well, me, anyway) have trouble keeping the clothing in our closet to a sane number of pieces. I'm inclined to blame the climate here in Texas--it's really hard to imagine how to wear the same article of clothing in 100 degree weather that I wore when it snowed back at Christmas; but in many ways I've learned to prune certain items from my wardrobe that I don't need often enough to justify owning. And it's not just the climate, as the Uniform Project demonstrates--a lot of it has to do with buying too many things that don't work together, and failing to invest in the good basic pieces from which a wardrobe can be built.

It would be interesting to think of the equivalent of Ms. Matheiken's black dress, only more suitable for homeschooling moms who are not young and gamin, and organize a wardrobe around it. If you were going to do something like this, what clothing item or items (up to three) would you choose?

I think I would chose a basic black mid-length skirt and a pair of black or navy blue slacks as the center pieces in a wardrobe of this kind. What about you? If you were going to attempt to create a "uniform," what would it be, and how would you do it?


phy1729 said...

A cassock. After being ordained of course.

Anonymous said...

I already have my own professional 'uniform', one that I wear at work, at home, and on the commute. It consists of short-sleeve polo shirts (dark blue or green), two or three skirts calf-length skirts in modest paisley or small patterned designs, and one of two pairs of stout shoes alternating with sandals, and the white jacket over all. It's not much to brag about, but scarves prove zesty or a brooch to cover the odd French dressing stain occasionally arising from the businesswoman's lunch. I knew a woman who was the admitting clerk at ER who did have a uniform that consisted of a plain dark blue skirt, plain polyester 'jacket', and various plain white shirts. She could've just as easily worn the outfit to Church with a necklace or to babysit a grandchild, although I doubt she weeded her garden in it.

Chris-2-4 said...

Garanimals for Adults?

Deirdre Mundy said...

A nice khakhi skirt (knee length) with a button down stretch fabrick blend shirt. (assuming all has been stain-proofed. And w/ good pockets on the shirt...)

At one point I had great luck with jumpers and blouses.

My big problem (as a younger Catholic mom) is that I need clothes for 4 seasons AND 1. Nursing and stable weight. 2. Nursing and going up to/ coming down from maternity 3. Pregnant 4. End of pregnancy when I'm so huge normal maternity clothes won't fit.

So in any given 2 year cycle, I go through TONS of wardrobes. Any advice for that? (note: not-nursing hasn't been an option for the last 6.5 years, so I have culled all non-nursable clothes from the wardrobe!)

Melanie B said...


It has been precisely that need for 4 seasons and shifting weight and nursing that has led to my current uniform: a selection of elastic-waist, mid-calf monochrome skirts: gray, black, denim, khaki. (I do have a few other skirts for variety and dress-up days; but these 4 are my day-in-day out).

In the summer I pair them with light weight t-shirts. In the fall and spring with long-sleeved shirts and/or 3/4 length shirts and a gray hooded jacket with pockets. In the winter I might layer a sweater over the long-sleeved shirt.

In the winter I wear leggings or yoga stretch pants under the skirts. The pants get tucked into my tall boots when going out and so can't be seen.

When pregnant I paired the skirts with a belly band for added support and to get my shorter shirts to fit.

In all seasons a nursing camisole underneath my shirt.

It's boring, I'll admit. I don't dress it up with accessories enough probably. But I'm generally not unhappy with it. It takes a lot of agonizing out of getting dressed. My husband doesn't complain and really to me that's what matters.

Of course I'm probably lucky in that while my weight shifts it isn't so much that my basic skirts don't fit. I doubt my solution would work for everyone.

I'd love to have better blouse options to pair with my skirts for Sundays. Not having much luck with that, though. I don't look good in button-downs.

Anonymous said...

The good thing about her dress is that it basically works for her. I really don't like the way it looks at the neck/bustline, it sort of works OK as a top, with leggings of all colors. If that looks good on you, great. However, if your best feature isn't your legs, but, say, your waist, better to wear something a little longer and less tent-like. Play up your good, cover your not-so-good.

Also, it has to be somewhat age appropriate. Even though we all recently saw the knock-out gorgeousness of the almost 70 Raquel Welch, I don't thing even that hot mama would wear some of these get-ups.

My uniform? Perish the thought. Couldn't do it, nor would I want to. The joy I get from beautiful clothes is not unlike the chef who swoons at a marvelous recipe, the musician with front-row seats at the symphony or a painter who gazes at an original Carravagio. Me, give up that joy? Ain't gonna happen.

St. Fashionista

eulogos said...

Well, I have clothes in all sizes from 10 to 20... getting rid of stuff is not my forte' to say the least.

However, if I did have to wear one dress, it would be this embroidered denim one I am wearing now, with different jackets/sweaters, shoes and jewelry. It is a light denim, loose enough to be cool. In winter I would wear a long sleeved shirt under it, and my silk long johns on the bottom. My workplace is overheated, so anything heavier underneath would be too much.

This is a dress which could go from garden to church...but not without a trip through the washer and dryer!

PS I am alas past the pregnancy and nursing stage, but this has front buttons, so I would wear a shirt of some sort inside of it to nurse in it. It is loose enough to handle pregnancy until about 5-6 months for me. I can't imagine any nonmaternity dress or skirt which would come close to fitting me in the end of pregnancy, unless it were something which falls loose from a yoke above the breasts--in otherwords, something which looks like a maternity dress.

Susan Peterson

Angie @ Many Little Blessings said...

(Sorry for the unrelated comment. I picked a slightly older one to comment on then, but couldn't find any other way to contact you.)

I just wanted to make sure that you knew that your blog is featured as a site on the Catholic Gadget (Catholic Family Toolbar).